Nothing sweeter than Lucian Carnival!

I always get very excited to experience the wonderful festivities that Saint Lucia has to offer in the month of July.  This time of year, there are a lot more flights landing as many visitors come to the island for one of the biggest events of the year.  Today, whilst walking near the Castries Market, this lovely lady named Nora, came up to me and asked for directions to the nearest mall.  In conversation with her, I learnt more about why she decided to  visit this lovely island.  Nora spoke of the beautiful people and the lush green forests that painted the hillsides but then she paused and I noticed this fire and excitement in her eyes as she exclaimed, “I’m here because of the Lucian Carnival!”


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The Saint Lucian Carnival or Lucian Cah-na-val as some would call it, is a festive time of year that brings together people from all around the island to showcase a colorful history with costumes and dance.  Saint Lucia won its independence in 1979 and since then, discovering new aspects of his history can be seen in the various carnival efforts of its people.  It is amazing to witness such a spectacular showcase and even more interesting to learn that every year around the month of July, people come to Saint Lucia just to see the parade.  My friends and I make it our duty to attend every single event surrounding this festival.  From the Annual Carnival Queen Show to the Parade of the Bands, we take pride in engaging in activities that are part of the island’s wide culture.   This year, I am very anxious to put on my Carnival Costumes as I join the parade with over twenty thousand participants.

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Carnival in Saint Lucia is the one event that you would not want to miss.  If there was ever a time that you wished to see the island in full color then I strongly recommend you visiting around the month of July.  With the Carnival Queen show happening very soon, I can’t wait to see more of  Saint Lucia’s lovely culture and it’s people.  

Dragon Boat Festival

Chinese history and culture fascinates me. Behind every holiday, every celebration is more than a thousand years of history and mythology.

On 2 June 2014, we celebrated Dragon Boat Festival. Locals in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong enjoyed a few days off to cheer for their Dragon Boat teams and feast with their families. While it is not officially a holiday in Singapore, it is still widely celebrated here in Singapore by local Chinese.

Dragon Boat Racers

Dragon Boat Racers

Contrary to what you may imagine, the story behind the Dragon Boat Festival is one of great tragedy. According to legend, in the third century B.C, Qu Yuan, a scholar and councillor to the King warned his king, Lord Huai, of an ominous threat from the northern Qing kingdom. Instead of listening to his advisor, the king banished him to the countryside. The king then took counsel from corrupt and scrupulous statesmen that cared not for the king and country but for money. Qu Yuan took to writing beautiful soulful poetry about the plight of the nation which inspired many countryfolk. In 278 B.C, the Qing armies conquered his kingdom and destroyed the imperial palace. Distraught, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mi-Luo River, killing himself.

When the villagers saw Qu Yuan jump into the river, they attempted to save him, to no avail. They then tried to appease his spirit by throwing rice stuffed in bamboo stems into the river to prevent the fish from eating his body. The villagers all went out in dragon boats trying to look for his body but they could not find it. Thus, began the practice of eating rice dumplings and racing dragon boats. Isn’t it interesting how a tragic event in the past can lead to a colourful vibrant festival today?

One of the reasons I personally love Dragon Boat Festival is because I have an excuse to eat deliciously sweet rice dumplings. In my opinion, one of the best dumplings in Singapore is made and sold by Kim Choo’s Kitchen. Kim Choo’s kitchen, nestled in the heart of Singapore’s East Coast, Joo Chiat, is a true delight for the senses. Here, you can buy a colourful assortment of local confectionary, cakes and dumplings. As the dumplings and cakes are so popular, I suggest you come early during the day to be able to even get your hands on them.

Rice dumplings with tea

Rice dumplings with tea

Kim Choo’s Kitchen is an easy 25-minute drive from Capella Singapore. You may wish to spend a whole day wandering the historical streets of Joo Chiat, stopping for lunch at Kim Choo’s Kitchen. Our Personal Assistants will be able to assist you with planning your visit to Joo Chiat and share more about the Dragon Boat Festival. You can reach them at pa.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5035.

A Look Back: The Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival 2014

They say the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach.  And if you haven’t fallen in love with Mexico yet, our Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival, would have you in head over heels, guaranteed!

Sabor + Vino 2014, which we held this past May, was Capella Ixtapa’s first culinary festival, and with the amazing feedback we received from our guests and visitors, I can promise you it won’t be the last!

Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Chef Miguel Baltazar from Capella Ixtapa, with Guest Chef Carmen Valencia and Chef Ramiro Ortega.

Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Chef Miguel Baltazar from Capella Ixtapa, with Guest Chef Carmen Valencia and Chef Ramiro Ortega.

“This region of Mexico has so much to offer gastronomically, offering an authentic Mexican cuisine experience.  We gathered well known chefs from different towns within the region to participate in festival Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino 2014, which established a sense of pride and honor, as we presented diverse traditional Mexican dishes, combined with exquisite Mexican wine and spirits for all attendees, complemented with a wonderful culinary event.  The feedback we received was fantastic, and I hope to see you all again at Capella Ixtapa’s Sabor + Vino 2015!” said Eliezer Quinones, General Manager of Capella Ixtapa.

The Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival ran over two weekends in May, and featured Guest Chefs,  Carmen Valencia, Ramiro Ortega, Karla Chápero, Jesús Ordoñez.  Hosted by Capella Ixtapa’s Chef Miguel Baltazar, guests were delighted by appetizers based on regional cuisines, cocktail events, cooking classes, two exquisite 7 course wine pairing dinners and a special breakfast where each of the chefs prepared their own signature breakfast dish.

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

Sabor + Vino 2014 was an incredible experience,” said Chef Miguel Baltazar.  “Four different culinary minds came to Capella Ixtapa with the same objective; to satisfy the palate of our guests, surprise them with the magnificent flavors and show them the best of their cuisine.  It was a great pleasure having them with us and creating the first edition of Capella Ixtapa’s culinary festival together.  For me personally it was also a magnificent opportunity to create, innovate and practice with these amazing Chefs for the Chef of the Year in Mexico contest, at which I will be participating in June, and representing the colors of Capella Ixtapa and our region.  Some of the unforgettable dishes from the festival for me were jack fish with black radish, scallops tiradito, jicama fruit infused with beet and mezcal, cocoa with meringue of salt from Zihuatanejo, and crystallized nopal.”

You can see more photos from the festival here, and mark your calendars for May 2015, for the next Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino festival.  Our team is already hard at work planning next year’s festivities!

Japanese Day & How To Wear A Yukata

Do you remember my story about the Japanese-German history in Dusseldorf which I shared on the Capella Blog a couple of months ago?  Then you might remember that Dusseldorf is the city with the largest Japanese population in Europe.  Actually, one fourth of Germany’s Japanese population is living in Dusseldorf!

Every year we have celebrate Japanese Day, where visitors and locals alike can learn more about the Japanese culture.  The event will take place for the 13th time this year and will be celebrate on May 17th.   The event takes place throughout the city, even along the Rhine Promenade.  I love to wander along the promenade, tasting different Japanese food specialties, listening to music and watching dance performances, combat demonstrations and even Manga costume contests.  At night the event is topped off with a beautiful firework display that lights up the entire city.

This year, the Breidenbacher Hof is getting in on the activities, with a fantastic Japanese amenity.  This amenity includes a lot of special Japanese things, prepared by our resident Japanese expert Keiko.  The most important part of the amenity is a traditional sleeping kimono, known as the Yukata.  Keiko showed me the correct way to wrap it, something I asked her to show you as well:

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First of all, you have to slip into the Yukata, of course.  Grasp it along the hem with one side in each hand. Fold the right hand side under the left hand side, holding it in place as you fold the right hand side over the left.

Use the obi (belt) to secure everything in place. This is done by placing the belt over your waist (if you are a woman) or relatively low on your hip (if you are a man) and then crossing the obi on the back and tying it in the front over your right hip.

I know, it takes some time to become a pro, but I am sure Keiko will help you practice and get ready for Japanese Day.  Just ask her during your stay at the Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel in Düsseldorf as soon as possible and don’t forget to tell our Personal Assistants about your plans to visit the Japanese Day festivities so that they can prepare everything for you!

Der Japan Tag in Düsseldorf

Erinnert Ihr euch an meinen Beitrag über die Japanisch-Deutsche Vergangenheit in Düsseldorf, den ich vor einigen Monaten auf dem Capella Blog veröffentlicht habe?  Dann erinnert Ihr euch bestimmt auch daran, dass Düsseldorf die Stadt mit der größten japanischen Bevölkerung in ganz Europa ist.  Genau genommen lebt ein Viertel der japanischen Bevölkerung Deutschlands in Düsseldorf!

Jedes Jahr feiern wir den Japan Tag, an dem sowohl Besucher als auch Einwohner mehr über die japanische Kultur kennenlernen können.  Die Veranstaltung wird dieses Jahr am 17. Mai zum dreizehnten Mal stattfinden.  Der Japan Tag findet in ganz Düsseldorf statt, sogar entlang des Rheinufers.  Ich liebe es entlang der Promenade zu flanieren, verschiedene japanische Spezialitäten zu probieren, Musik zu hören und mir die zahlreichen Tanzgruppen, Kampfvorstellungen und sogar Manga Kostümwettbewerbe anzusehen.  Am späten Abend wird die Veranstaltung dann mit einem farbenfrohen Feuerwerk gekrönt, welches die gesamte Stadt erhellt.

Dieses Jahr beteiligt sich der Breidenbacher Hof mit einem fantastischen japanischen Amenity an der Veranstaltung.  Dieses Amenity beinhaltet eine Vielzahl typisch japanischer Dinge, die von unserer Japan-Expertin Keiko vorbereitet werden.  Der wichtigste Bestandteil des Amenitys ist ein traditioneller Schlaf-Kimono, der auch als Yukata bekannt ist.  Keiko hat mir gezeigt, wie man diesen richtig anlegt und ich hab sie gebeten, es Euch auch zu zeigen:

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Zuerst muss man natürlich in den Yukata hineinschlüpfen.  Erfasst ihn entlang des Kleidersaums mit je einer Seite in jeder Hand.  Dann faltet Ihr die rechte Seite unter die linke Seite des Yukata und haltet die rechte Seite dabei gut fest.

Benutzt den „obi“ (Gürtel), um das Ganze zu fixieren.  Dies tut Ihr, indem Ihr den Gürtel über eure Hüfte legt (bei Frauen) oder relativ tief  im unteren Teil eurer Hüfte (bei Männern), und den obi einmal um euren Körper wickelt und ihn anschließend vorne auf der rechten Seite eurer Hüfte zusammenbindet.

Ich weiß, man benötigt etwas Übung, um ein Profi darin zu werden, aber ich bin mir sicher, dass Keiko euch beim Üben helfen wird und euch so für den Japan Tag vorbereitet.  Fragt sie einfach so früh wie möglich während eures nächsten Aufenthalts im Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel in Düsseldorf und vergesst nicht unsere Persönlichen Assistenten über eure Pläne, den Japan Tag zu besuchen, in Kenntnis zu setzten, sodass sie alles für Euch vorbereiten können!

Preparing for the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival

From a very tender age, I have always loved music.  Music has played a very important role in the island of Saint Lucia’s culture and Jazz music has found its way into the hearts of locals and visitors alike.  The Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival attracts thousands from all over the world to the island.  Jazz has always been one of my favorite genres of music and I vowed that I would never miss the Festival since its inception in 1992.

About 22 years later, I still get very excited as I guess who this year’s performers will be.  For months leading up to the festival, the people on this island excitedly wait for the Saint Lucia Tourist Board to unveil the line-up for the year’s Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival.  This year the event runs May 9th – 11th, 2014, and will feature some of my favorite artists including Kem, Barrington Levy, P-Square, Maxwell, The Commodores and the winner of NBC’s The Voice – Tessane Chin.

Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival

This year’s event promises to host many fun-filled festivities for all.  Everyone attending will witness performances by stilt walkers, masqueraders, Creole dancers and even fire breathers.  I just love how the people of Saint Lucia get together for this spectacular experience that leaves an everlasting memory in everyone’s mind.

If you are interested in attending any of the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival events, please be sure to contact your Capella Marigot Bay Personal Assistant either via email Res.marigotbay@capellahotels.com or by phone:  Direct 758 458 5300 ext. 3005 or Toll Free: 1 877 384 8037.